Thursday, 6 August 2009

This far and no further with Ankara

Just to follow on from comments and discussion on this post regarding an increasing number of Greek voices being raised urging the government to respond to Turkey’s provocations in the Aegean and Cyprus by vetoing – when it is reviewed in December – Turkey’s EU accession process, below is an article (my translation) by Giorgos Delastik that appeared in the Athens daily, Ethnos, last week and which stresses the importance of Greece defending its sovereignty around Kastellorizo and that one way to do this would be to block Turkey’s EU membership talks, sending a clear message to the Turks and, indeed, to the international community, that Greece is no longer prepared to tolerate Turkey's shenanigans.

This far and no further with Ankara
The course of Greek-Turkish relations are extremely troubling. Turkey’s violations of Greek airspace in the Aegean have taken an even more aggressive turn, since Turkish pilots now engage not just in mock dogfights with Greek fighters, but also mock bombardments of outlying Greek islands, such as Agathonisi and Farmakonisi. At a time when, in five months, Turkey’s EU accession process will be judged, principally on the basis of whether or not Turkey has opened its ports and airports to traffic from the Republic of Cyprus, the well-known extreme Turkophile Carl Bildt, foreign minister of Sweden, which currently holds the EU presidency, has justified the Turkish occupation of half of Cyprus as a legitimate consequence of the junta’s coup against Archbishop Makarios, and given us a foretaste of the position the EU presidency will adopt in December.

The government of prime minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan is preparing to despatch Turkish vessels to investigate hydrocarbon resources in the Greek continental shelf and Exclusive Economic Zone around the Greek island of Kastellorizo, attempting in this way the de facto invalidation of Greek sovereignty in the area.

Only last Sunday, the Sunday Ethnos, published an extremely interesting article by professor of political economy, Theodoros Karyotis, member of the Greek delegation to the UN Conference on the Law of the Sea, which reveals the extent of the diplomatic Waterloo that threatens Greece in the critical question of the delineation of the Greek Exclusive Economic Zone, and specifically its delineation with Cyprus and Egypt.

The article shows the significance of Kastellorizo and how if Greek sovereignty there is undermined (as appears to be happening because of the desperate inadequacy of Greece’s response to Turkish provocations and Egypt’s unacceptable [pro-Turkish] positions), Turkey will end up with sea borders with… Egypt. This would be a dramatically negative development not just for Greece, but also for Cyprus.

Unfortunately, as if these continuous negative developments weren’t enough, what's worse is that no serious political figure in Greece is interested in these matters.

Prime minister Kostas Karamanlis is preoccupied above all else with how to extend the survival of his faltering government for a few extra months. He doesn’t even have time to consider what all these developments in the Aegean mean in the light of the Obama policy of upgrading Turkey's geopolitical status or how to manage the consequences by, for example, taking advantage of the strong opposition of France and Germany to Turkey’s EU accession.

And for certain Karamanlis doesn’t have the time or inclination to go to the heart of the matter, which would be the radical reorientation of his and his government’s anachronistic policy of fanatically supporting, without preconditions, Turkey’s EU membership; a policy that induces both anger and amusement among Greece’s EU partners.

As for the leader of the official opposition, Giorgos Papandreou, he subordinates everything to his call for early elections and his desire to enjoy the fruits of power. The result of this approach is that he condemns, in the same tone and manner, the incompetence of the Karamanlis government over the Vatopedi scandal, Greek-Turkish relations or measures to tackle swine flu, never managing at any time to convince anyone.

The Karamanlis government would be doing the country a great service, just before, as seems likely, it leaves office, if it were to do that which it has not done for the six years it has been in power: to stand up to Turkey and block its EU accession negotiations, insisting that, for them to restart, Turkey must end hostile actions against Greece and that there must be the settlement of the whole range of Greco-Turkish issues. The New Democracy government would directly undermine Greece's interests, if, despite all the outrages Turkey is committing in the Aegean and Cyprus, it consents to the continuation of Turkey’s EU membership negotiations.

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